In this this podcast Giovanbattista (Giovanni) Mattiussi from Eurotech discusses the company’s push into the HPC market and their growing presence at the annual SC and ISC conferences. Widely known for their embedded manufacturing capabilities, Eurotech is receiving accolades for their high-density Aurora Intel-based clusters.
insideHPC: Eurotech does not seem to be widely known in the U.S. supercomputing market. When did the company start doing HPC?
Giovanni: I would start saying the Eurotech is a publicly listed global company who does not only HPC. I think this is important to point out for financial and competence reasons: Eurotech relies on a wide beyond HPC offering that guarantees cash flows and technical synergies/exchanges between divisions.
Eurotech started doing HPC in 1998. For 10 years, between 1998 and 2008, the company took part to large (10M€+) HPC projects as engineering and design partner, producing special and general purpose supercomputers and collaborating with some of the most prestigious European research centres. The competencies inherited from the core embedded electronic business allowed Eurotech to include innovative design solutions in its HPC systems. Supercomputer were evolving in HPC clusters, using commercial components, absorbing increasingly more power, generating increasingly more heat and using an increasingly smaller space: all of these aspects are areas where an embedded electronic company like Eurotech thrived.
These 10 years saw the birth of supercomputers like the APE series, a family of systems that almost set a paradigm in the history of the 3D Torus architecture for LQCD. Also worth to be mentioned, Janus was one of the first FPGA based supercomputers and Avogadro, the first Eurotech top500 entry. A common characteristic of these systems is that they never became commercial products, leaving Eurotech to play in the field of custom supercomputers. Things changed in 2008 with Aurora, which Eurotech designed in collaboration with the research consortium Aurora Science, backed by the prestigious INFN, the national institute of nuclear physics, where scientists like Fermi worked. Aurora was designed to be highly “scientific” and special in its design, but also suitable to be marketed because it relied on main stream components. Aurora soon became a product line, which leveraged more than 10 years of research. Around the Aurora product family, Eurotech built its HPC division shaping it as independent business unit. Nowadays, whilst maintaining its hardware manufacturer DNA, Eurotech can offer HPC solutions, integrating its own and 3rd party hardware and software plus services that cover design, installation and support.
insideHPC: What prompted Eurotech to develop the Aurora series of supercomputer clusters based on commodity components?
Giovanni: The idea that the company had built through research projects enough technical competencies to design, build and launch its own product line. Also, the willingness to follow the HPC industry trends which were pushing toward standardization if not commoditization. Eurotech keeps doing research projects (DEEP, Dynamic Exascale Entry Platform, and others I can’t mention yet are some examples), but strategically aims to become a player in the HPC market like the Crays or SGIs of this world.
insideHPC: Eurotech has a core competency in hardware manufacturing. What additional strengths does the company bring to the table in the HPC marketplace?
Giovanni: You said it right. Eurotech comes from hardware design and manufacturing. However, few years ago, the company started its journey as software developer: the “device cloud” offering Eurotech proposes is an example. At the group level, we have been building software competencies to match the HW ones. In the HPC division, at the moment, we retain a 50% split between HW and SW engineers. So, despite not producing HPC software, I believe Eurotech has the competencies to integrate and maintain HPC software packages. The other aspect are good services that, despite not being sold standalone, are built on a a real intimacy between us and our customers and follow the customers throughout each HPC project. So, I would say, technical leadership, solution design and customer intimacy are the strong points in our HPC proposition.
insideHPC: In terms of your HPC products, would you say that you are mostly a player at the very high end, or do you also have departmental offerings?
Giovanni: With the introduction of Aurora, we have been in the condition to sell at the same price level of companies like Cray and IBM for instance. Also, we normally configure small clusters and mid end systems that, despite maintaining a high engineering content, are stripped down of “fancy” features to become more standardized. Due the size of our company we prioritize producing rock solid, high quality, energy efficient HPC systems, rather than selling on volume. We totally focus on customers, trying to design the best solution for them. This is the reason why we think that more than competing with many large HPC hardware vendors, we complement their offering.
Also, note that we are the only HPC player offering a rugged high performance computer, able to withstand vibrations, heat, cold, rain etc. a product that oil&gas, security and meteorological sectors are seeing with an increased interest.
insideHPC: Is the ISC conference an important part of your HPC marketing strategy?
Giovanni: Yes, it is. To be honest, if I had to do a crude analysis of the cost per lead, I would need to disqualify both ISC and SC! However, there has been no other marketing activity that has given me the same quality in the leads so far. Also, both ISC and SC are unique opportunities to showcase Eurotech technologies in front of all industry reunited. This is not trivial for a company like Eurotech whose marketing reach is limited by budget. ISC is particularly relevant because it is an European show and Europe is at the moment our main field of play.
insideHPC: On the road to Exascale computing, It seems like Europe has chosen to focus on developing software. Does Eurotech participate in these planning discussions?
Eurotech is involved in PRACE and other European initiatives. Recently, we announced our participation to the European Technology Platform for HPC. This collaboration happens at a very wide European level and wants to tackle exascale challenges from the software and hardware points of view. Eurotech already participates to large EU funded research projects like DEEP, whose focus is equally hardware and software. All in all, what I can see is that, eventually, Europe realized that only communitarian European wide initiatives will bring enough weight to play at the same level than US, Japan and now China in the supercomputing arena. Maybe, this will serve an example to inspire that European political unity, whose absence is now the cause of the sever economic a crisis. At the moment, I would be happy with an HPC united Europe!
insideHPC: Besides Europe, you have subsidiaries in Japan, the U.K., and the U.S.. Do you believe Eurotech will be a worldwide force in HPC in the long term?
Giovanni: Yes we do, but it will take some time. We believe Europe is where at the moment we stand most chances to increase our installed based. At the same time, we are equipping our worldwide sales force to be able to sell HPC and discussing business in Japan and the middle East. While in Japan we can sell through the locally recognized Advanet brand, markets like the U.S. one will require Eurotech to collaborate with a U.S. system integrator or a larger US vendor.